Priscilla’s ‘Shirl’ back in town for the Festival

By Dylan J. Stone

The Broken Heel Festival is now well underway, and with so many events slated for today and tomorrow, including today’s parade and tomorrow’s screening of The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, one local figure truly stands out amongst the crowd.

June Marie Bennett, who played ‘Shirl’ in the 1994 movie, and is once again taking part in this weekend’s festival, albeit as a spectator this time around.

June Marie says despite ‘Shirl’s’ character, who, “didn’t like drag queens…’Shirl’ is alive and well in Broken Hill and now she welcomes everyone”.

It certainly is a change of heart for ‘Shirl’, but June Marie says that the Heel Festival, “is so great for the town, because Broken Hill is buzzing, and I am so delighted to see the town so alive!”

June Marie’s involvement with the Heel Festival stretches back to the first one in 2015, when she was contacted by the Palace Hotel to appear during the festival. In other years, she has been interviewed on stage, and has represented Broken Hill in other festivals around the country, including in Sydney and Melbourne.

In the years since, the Palace Hotel, as well as so many other groups and organisations, have continued to build a remarkable event which certainly grabs headlines around the country and around the world. As the

Heel Festival continues to grow, so too does the level of talent involved with the festival.

One such talent is Peter Goers, who will be performing at the festival tonight. Mr Goers first met June Marie during the inaugural Heel Festival in 2015, and have kept in touch when he returns to Broken Hill.

“I’ve been coming to Broken Hill since the mid-80s, and I love the Silver City and I am honoured to broadcast it every single night for ABC radio Adelaide,” Mr Goers said.

“The Heel Festival is a marvel of inclusivity, and a crowning glory of the Silver City.”

The impact of the Heel Festival on Mr Goers was immense.

“After 51 years in showbiz without ever working in drag, it’s taken Broken Heel to put me in a frock! Good on June Marie and everyone associated with the Heel festival, it is a truly marvellous event.”

June Marie is a true local celebrity. On Wednesday, she was recognised on the footpath by a group of people and she says it led to half an hour of photos.

The festival certainly brings out the very best in our community, says, June Marie, and surely even ‘Shirl’ could not be prouder of how welcoming and accepting our community has become.

PHOTO: June Marie Bennett and Peter Goers prepare for a big weekend and, (right) the large ‘Shirl’ torso used in both the Sydney Mardi Gras and Broken Heel festival parade .

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